Student Entrepeneurship

By Helena Reinders

More and more students are starting their own businesses. The amount of students with their own (successful) start-up already doubled between 2012 and 2014 from 3% to 6 %.  This number has doubled once more between then and 2019. That would put us currently at a percentage of at least 12%. 

The question that rises is why students are so interested in starting up their own company? One main driver of students appears to be the sense of freedom that comes with owning a company, and especially with being your own boss. Rather than being told what to do and how to do it, the current generation students yearns for a sense of self-ownership over their work and future. This oftentimes results in intriguing and innovative companies. From consultancy companies in art licenses to clothing companies for sustainable sportswear, students do it all. 

In order to get a better understanding of how students move from the idea of creating their own company to setting one up, I interviewed Rosalie de Vries and Julie Czaszewicz. They opened up their company Escapists, which specialises in online escape rooms, on April 30th. Why did they open up this specific type of company? The answer is quite simple, the two friends used to do many physical escape rooms together, a fun activity which came to an abrupt halt due to the outbreak of COVID-19. After talking about the idea for a while, they decided to just go for it. 

The deciding factor was a meeting we had at home. We sat behind the desk together and started working out the plot. A lot of small ideas poured in, and these ended up forming the basis for our company.” – Rosalie

Naturally, a company takes up a lot of time. This is also a main concern of universities when students set up a company. Some students end up dropping out in order to sustain their company, others put their schooling first and end up going bankrupt. In order to lighten this load, universities and companies such as Starterslift work together to guide students who want to set up their own company. This prevents them both from dropping out and from making investments into non-viable companies. 

Rosalie and Julie have also spent a lot of time setting up their company. They started working on their company in late November and hold mandatory weekly meetings in which they update each other on the progress they have made. This helps them to keep the communication clear, as well as continuously set and achieve both short and long term goals. As for finances, the two have thought out their situation beforehand already. 

Since our company is fully online we have no costs regarding company buildings. We also don’t have production costs, so all the costs we have made so far are the only ones we will make. That makes it easy to earn back our investment costs.” – Julie

When setting up a company there is one more thing to look at. That is, of course, the responses from those around you. Having a supportive  surrounding can really help when you want to try out new things. This support can come from family, friends, and also your educational organisation. The Netherlands has numerous student organisations that help students set up their own entrepreneurial projects and companies. These kinds of initiatives do not only encourage students and young-adults to set up their own companies, they also prevent them from failing. Through the sharing of knowledge and expertise, students have a better chance of succeeding. 

Luckily, Rosalie and Julie also found themselves in a supportive environment. Within her family, Rosalie is not the only one with a young company. Her sister started working as a freelancer not too long ago and was able to provide guidance and offer a listening ear when needed. The two friends also share how they have found much comfort and a better drive to make the company succeed in each other. 

With Rosalie managing the finances and me taking care of communication, we were able to divide up the tasks and it has helped us tremendously.” – Julie

With their company having just opened up, Rosalie and Julie are looking forward to what it will bring. Over summer they plan on finalising their second escape room, The Initiation, which they will offer next to their already available escape room called The Corporate Kidnapping. Whereas The Corporate Kidnapping focuses on thrill and smart wit, The Initiation will take on a darker theme and have players infiltrate a cult in order to get to the bottom of its deepest and darkest secrets. 

Are you considering starting up your own business? Leiden University offers electives in Entrepreneurship and Innovation. Furthermore, Dutchse offers a helpful overview of organisations which can help you get started.  

Do you want to know more about Escapists? Check them out here:



Edited by Chira Tudoran, artwork by Oscar Laviotte